Days Out: A winter walk around Whalley Abbey

With Tier 4 about to be imposed, we slipped up to Lancashire for a winter walk around Whalley Abbey. Whalley Abbey is a former Cistercian Abbey and is a little under an hour long drive from my home in South Manchester; but worth the trip if you like ruined buildings, beautiful views and lunch at an excellent café.


We managed to visit on one of the snowiest days of the year, but Whalley Abbey looked extra beautiful in the crisp white snow. We were a little less keen to explore the ruins, given we couldn’t see the paths underfoot; but we respectfully wandered around the areas other people had trod before.

Whalley Abbey in Lancashire was established by Cistercian monks in the 14th Century, with building completed late in the 15th Century.

Days Out: A winter walk around Whalley Abbey

The Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1537, as part of his dissolution of the monasteries. Its last Abbot, John Paslew was executed for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, a popular uprising in the North of England against Henry’s Reformation.

It’s unclear when the Abbey fell to ruin; but it must have been a useful source of stone for those in the village of Whalley. It is said that it’s possible to rebuild the Abbey entirely but half the village would fall down.

Whalley Abbey

The Abbey was sold by the Crown and converted into a private residence until its sale in the 20th Century to the Anglican Diocese of Manchester. It passed to the new Diocese of Blackburn on its founding. Under the care of the church, chapels were created in the house itself. The site of the Abbey church was excavated and the foundations were exposed.

Days Out: A winter walk around Whalley Abbey

The ruins were beautiful and it was clear that the grounds of the Abbey would be striking in all seasons. But it was bitterly cold and we were in need of a hot cup of tea and a warm lunch. Happily the Autisan Café (a café staffed by volunteers and run by the National Autistic Society) was open and doing a roaring takeaway trade. We can highly recommend the jacket potatoes, though we were told the soup and toasties were also excellent.

Days Out: A winter walk around Whalley Abbey

We spent a happy hour or so exploring the snowy grounds. It was fairly busy, but there was enough parking on the main road outside the gatehouse and some parking inside; though this may be more limited when the Abbey is open for events and such like.

Today the Abbey hosts retreats and the grounds are open year round. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area and is popular with artists and photographers. For more information on Whalley Abbey, visit their website.

Days Out: A winter walk around Whalley Abbey

Lancashire Lightning Vitality T20 Blast – Great family fun!

AD/Press Trip. In the weekend after the nail-biting Cricket World Cup, and still full of cricket fever, we took my son and his cousin to Emirates Old Trafford for the afternoon. We had been invited along to watch Lancashire Lightning’s Vitality T20 Blast match against Durham. The boys were incredibly excited about going to their first live cricket match, and I was too.

Lancashire Lightning Vitality T20 Blast - Great family fun!

The doors opened at 1pm, but the match started at 2.30pm. There were lots of things going on outside the ground for families, they’d closed the road off outside and you could take part in all kinds of sporting challenges. The boys were keen as mustard to get inside, so we did that.

This match was billed as one of the most family orientated fixtures of the summer, with lots of activities going on around the ground for children to enjoy. It certainly was that. We’d brought a picnic with us, so we took our seats and got stuck into our sandwiches. There are plenty of places to grab a snack or a meal around the ground, but you can save a bit of money by bringing your own if you prefer. Likewise, drinks of both the hard and soft kind are readily available. It’s all very civilised, and there wasn’t a sniff of rowdiness.

We watched the teams warm up, and before long the match began. T20 is fast-paced, exciting cricket which is ideal for cricket fans who might be a bit overwhelmed by longer versions of the game. It was three hours of action, with lots of singing and dancing. The celebrations reminded me a lot of the ice hockey games we sometimes go to, but this was much, much warmer!

Lancashire Lightning Vitality T20 Blast - Great family fun!

Very quickly the boys and I started to pick up on the rules and we really got into the swing of things. The crowd was full of families, all absolutely loving it. Going to see live sport can be an expensive business, but we were very pleasantly surprised. Tickets for children start at just £1 and adult tickets for the stand we were in were around £13. Having taken the family out to other sporting events and not got much change out of £100, this was a bit of a revelation.

The Vitality T20 Blast is three fast-paced hours of cricket fun. It’s a brilliant family day out, with loads going on too. If you’re lucky like we were, the players sometimes come out at the end to meet the fans, sign autographs and take selfies. This was the icing on the cake for the boys, and they were thrilled to meet their new heroes.

Lancashire Lightning Vitality T20 Blast - Great family fun!

The boys and I had a brilliant afternoon; we arrived at Old Trafford complete newbies and left really wanting to come again another day, and then another day after that!

You can find out more about Lancashire Lightning, their Vitality T20 Blast matches and buy tickets on the Lancashire Cricket Club website.

Disclosure: We were given complimentary tickets in exchange for this review. All images and opinions are our own.

15 Fantastic things to do in Blackpool

Living in Manchester and having been a semi regular visitor to Blackpool since I was in a pram, so I like to think I know the town reasonably well. We recently visited the area for a weekend of glamping, so I’ve compiled a list of some good stuff to do in the area.

The Blackpool Tower – the tower is such an iconic place to visit. I always like to race up to the top to see how far I can see. The tower is packed with attractions and things to do, you can happily spend a whole day here.

The Sandcastle Waterpark – don’t forget your trunks! The Sandcastle is a brilliant place to spend the day with the family, riding the slides and splashing about.

Blackpool Tower Dungeon – Not for small children, but if you love being spooked, a visit to the dungeon is a must.

Blackpool SEA LIFE Centre – being beside the sea, this SEA LIFE Centre gives visitors a great, and often hands on idea about the creatures which lurk beneath the waves.

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

Madame Tussauds Blackpool – a rainy day activity for sure! Visit all your favourite famous faces, and have a drink in the replica Rovers Return.

The Blackpool Tower Circus – the show changes every year, but it’s always funny, frivolous and fabulous. It’s a brilliant family show in a beautiful theatre.

Coral Island (other arcades are available) – I can never resist a trip to an arcade, it’s a great place to spend up your loose change and win a few prizes with the family.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach – spend a day riding the roller-coasters at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Classic seaside fun!

Blackpool Zoo – one of the best zoos in the UK, Blackpool Zoo has everything from a children’s farm, to elephants and sealions.

Blackpool Rail Trail and Walk – For keen walkers and explorers, the Rail Trail sounds excellent. The Rail Trail begins at Blackpool North station and takes you along the streets lined with local shops, down onto the Promenade and beyond. It’s a great way to explore the area and see things you might usually miss.

Blackpool Comedy Carpet – the comedy carpet is probably my favourite place to visit in Blackpool. It’s 2,200 metres square of comedy quotes from 1000 of our favourite comedians. Every time I visit I seem to find something I’d not seen before. It’s a real treat and is located in front of the Tower on the Promenade.

15 Fantastic things to do in Blackpool

Blackpool Lifeboat Station – The Lifeboat Station is on the Central Promenade. It’s one of only two RNLI stations to house three inshore lifeboats – an Atlantic 85 and two D class lifeboats. There’s a visitors centre and shop and a visit to the lifeboat station is a great place to learn more about this lifesaving charity.

Blackpool Illuminations – Were you even brought up in the north if you didn’t go and see the illuminations. Bigger, brighter and better each year, the illuminations are a solid tradition.

Heritage Tram Tours  – take a ride along the world famous tramway aboard a piece of moving history! It’s a fun way to see the sights aboard one of their vintage trams.

Marton Mere Nature Reserve – a short drive from the town, but a must for nature lovers, Marton Mere Nature Reserve. There’s an otter enclosure, pond dipping zone, an inspirational eco-garden and the opportunity to enjoy close-up encounters with around 100 species of international water-birds as they swim, feed and wander in wetlands custom-designed to mimic their natural homes.

Blackpool is so much more than these 15 attractions and things to do I’ve picked out. Have I missed any must see things? Please comment below to add to the list!

15 Fantastic things to do in Blackpool

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

AD – Press Trip. Regular readers will know that I love a good glamp. I grew up holidaying under canvas, but times have changed and I like sleeping in a proper bed and not living in fear of the tent collapsing in the night (which seemed to happen with alarming regularity when I was a child). Over the weekend the boys and I headed an hour from home, to the comfort of Stanley Villa Farm Camping, just outside Blackpool.

Stanley Villa Farm Camping is a really sweet site. Located next to its own fishing lake, there are 24 pods on site. The pods are nicely spaced apart and are dotted around the edge of a field. Naturally all the children on site meet in the middle and all play together, which was brilliant for my only child. It never takes him long to make friends and before we’d unpacked the car he was running around with his new chums.

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

We were met by Alex, the owner who showed us to our pod and made sure we had everything we needed. The pod itself contains two comfortable single beds. We brought our own air bed and if you move the beds there’s room for a double airbed. Plenty of room for two adults and two children. Each pod has its own outdoor fire pit and you can buy in optional extras, like camping chairs, or a firewood package, or fairy lights. They’ve thought of everything.

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

On site there’s a games room overlooking the lake. It’s a wooden lodge which had a comfortable room to hang out and play games in. There’s also a kitchen area where you can make hot drinks and light snacks, tea and coffee are provided free of charge, which is nice. There are also several bathrooms with showers; they’re warm and clean and a welcome change from some of the campsite facilities I’ve been familiar with over the years.

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

The fishing lake is a lovely thing to be near. The lake is well stocked with trout and we enjoyed evening strolls around it. There was lots of wildlife to be seen if you’re looking in the right places. We spotted swans and their cygnets, geese, ducks, moorhens and even a hedgehog. I went for a walk at dusk and I’m pretty sure I saw a couple of bats too!

The pod is basic, but it doesn’t feel like you are roughing it. You do need to take your own bedding and towels, and the other things you might need, like camping chairs. We took a cool box and couple of disposable BBQs and cooked sausages for our tea. The pods are light and bright, with big windows at the back. There are blinds too, so you can shut out the light. The fresh air and exercise meant we all slept like a dream.

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

We’ve glamped in lots of different places, this was our first pod and I was worried that it would be chilly at night. I had nothing to worry about; it was so cosy that I slept on top of my covers (even though there was wind and rain outside).

Besides the games room there’s lots for kids to do; there’s a Mini Play-Pod with an assortment of toys including footballs, swing balls; badminton rackets and a host of board games in the main lodge for when the weather isn’t so nice.

In terms of location, it’s 15 minutes drive from Blackpool and nestled in a really good spot for exploring Lancashire. While we were there we drove to Lytham St Annes for a look around the shops. It’s full of really good old fashioned shops, which I loved. We also drove over to the Forest of Bowland for a walk and lunch at the Inn at Whitewell; a real treat!

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

It costs from £49 to hire a pod for a night and it’s a really chilled out place to stay. We thought it would be ideal if you’re visiting the bright lights of Blackpool but don’t fancy staying in a hotel or B&B. For us it was just a great spot to chill out. We didn’t have grand plans to go to the Pleasure Beach or stroll along the prom; just getting away from home for a couple of nights and switching off from everything at home did us the power of good.

We would absolutely stay at Stanley Villa Farm Camping again. Small but perfectly formed, with all the comforts of home and with the cosiest of cosy pods. The location was great and we had a very warm welcome and a great stay.

To find out more about Stanley Villa Farm Camping, visit their website.

stanley villa

Disclosure: We were invited guests of Stanley Villa Farm Camping, all images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall

At the end of August I took the small boy away for five days at Ribby Hall in Lancashire. We had a brilliant little break, but one of the highlights was visiting the small independent zoo which is on the site, Wild Discovery. We’ve been to zoos large and small, but never have we experienced anything like the interactive and hands-on experience we had at Wild Discovery.

Days Out: Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall

From our cottage at Ribby Hall we could see some of the enclosures at Wild Discovery, which is quite special if you’re staying in the village. We set aside an afternoon to spend exploring Wild Discovery. It’s the kind of thing you can whip around in half an hour, or you could easily spend a day exploring and interacting. We went twice during our stay, which tells you how much we enjoyed it.

There are lots of different animals and birds at Wild Discovery; from farmyard animals like rare breed pigs, pretty little calves, a reindeer, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep and even an orphan duck. There’s an exotic house with bats, insects, reptiles and some fish, as well as tortoise, armadillo and lovely little marmoset monkeys.

The favourites with the children were the meerkats, obviously. The family group at Wild Discovery are great fun, especially at feeding time. We were lucky enough to be there a few times when they were being fed. They are such funny, cheeky little creatures.

Days Out: Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall

There is a safari walk which takes you past all the birds, past the Asian small-clawed otters, the capybara, pelicans, alpaca, wallaby’s, rhea and the porcupine (adorably called Pricklelilly).

My son was particularly taken with the Asian small-clawed otters Ollie and Geoff. During a keeper session we helped to put together an enrichment activity for them, putting live mealworms into a ball for the otters to play with and eat. We ended up spending quite a lot of time watching Geoff and Ollie playing in their enclosure and ultimately adopting them both. (We’re planning to visit them again soon).

Days Out: Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall

There are regular sessions throughout the day which you are free to join in with. The sessions are listed on their website, but they currently include; the Farmyard Talk; an Enrichment Activity; Otter Talk and Feed; Pelican Feeding Talk; Meerkat Talk; Farmyard Talk; Armadillo Talk and Meet the Keeper.

These sessions are what made Wild Discovery so special for us both. We really loved that you could spend time with the staff learning about the animals. The keepers would often let you touch the animals or feed them if appropriate. One of our highlights was discovering a freshly laid (unfertilised) rhea egg and getting to touch it while it was still warm.

Days Out: Wild Discovery at Ribby Hall

We learned so much at Wild Discovery, it’s such a friendly place and so hands on. It’s still quite new, I know they have plans to build and extend what they have and add new animals over the next few years or so. It’s such a great place to visit, even if you’re not staying at Ribby Hall.

Wild Discovery will also feature on popular the Cbeebies TV programme “Fern & Rory’s Vet Tales” in 2018. The programme will feature Wild Discovery and showcase several of the animals in the zoo. They will also feature a behind the scenes look into the work of the Exotic Veterinary Team. Worth looking out for!

Tickets to Wild Discovery (with unlimited access for one day) are £7 for adults and £6 for children. Under 3’s go free. For more information about visiting Wild Discovery  visit their website.

We paid for our tickets to Wild Discovery. We’ve not been paid to write this post. We are just sharing a lovely experience of a great attraction.

Beech’s Fine Chocolates Luxury Handmade Truffles

I’m a fan of Beech’s Fine Chocolates who are based just up the road from me in Lancashire. Beech’s Fine Chocolates have been making quality, traditional British Chocolates since 1920, including novelties for children, right up to their latest range of luxury handmade truffles.

Their new collection of luxury handmade truffles includes Champagne, Pink Champagne, Prosecco and Sea Salted Caramel flavours. Each box contains 9 truffles and costs £6.99 per beautiful box.

Beech’s Fine Chocolates Luxury Handmade Truffles

The silver embossing on the boxes is especially lovely. Each pastel box is emblazoned with the phrase “All you need is Love & Chocolate”. It’s an eye-catching and appealing box of chocolates which would make a lovely gift for someone special.

I’m someone who gets given a box of Champagne truffles for my birthday and Christmas, so I’ve tried quite a lot of Champagne truffles over the years and these were excellent. Packed full of Champagne flavour, but not so much that it overwhelms the thick chocolate shell.

I had never until now tried a Pink Champagne truffle. These lightly dusted truffles burst with Pink Champagne flavour. They are made with white chocolate and they’re so delicate in every way. They might be my new favourite Champagne truffle.

Beech’s Fine Chocolates Luxury Handmade Truffles

I am pleased to see that Prosecco truffles are part of the new range. I’ve never tried a Prosecco truffle before but I’ve got a feeling these will be popular. The milk chocolate truffles are delicious; slightly more delicate that the Champagne truffles but just as smooth and creamy inside.

Last but my no means least are the Anglesey Sea Salted Caramel truffles. These have been dusted with cocoa and filled with salted caramel. They’re so good. Really luxurious, not too salty and with a nice balance between the chocolate and the caramel. I loved them.

These luxury handmade truffles from Beech’s Fine Chocolates are a real treat. They’re as pretty as a picture, they’re utterly delicious and they’d make really lovely little gifts this Christmas.

Find out more about Beech’s Fine Chocolates Luxury Handmade Truffles on their website.

Note: We were sent these truffles for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.